Looks like I only get the energy to blog when I’m on holidays with wifi.
Rather than reading all the worthy novels I brought, I got through The Guinness Book of Word Games by David Parlett, which I bought second hand on Amazon for a pittance. You may know David Parlett from his card game books, his Oxford History of Board Games and Spiel des Jahres winner Hare and Tortoise.
It’s split into:
- Spoken Word Games e.g. I Spy, Charades
- Written Word Games e.g. Jotto, Hangman, Call My Bluff
- Boxed Word Games e.g. Scrabble, Boggle, Upwords
- Playing With Words – a slightly superfluous section discussing issues in word games, e.g. anagrams, synonyms, franglais etc.
I really enjoyed the book, despite not really being a fan of word games. I listed the best known games above, but many original lesser-known games are described. The book also covers a lot of games I already knew in depth. I had no idea there was a dictionary specifically for Call My Bluff / Fictionary.
David Parlett’s writing style is worth the read in itself. He never misses a chance at neat, witty word-play, while still writing perfectly sparse, economical English.
I played Jotto last night, which is a true classic and I’m looking forward to trying more.
I forgot to mention that you can get a taste of the book by reading David Parlett’s original word games at his website.
Shut Up & Sit Down is a new Tumblr and video podcast. It’s aiming at new gamers and they have a gentle eccentric style of humour. Definitely worth keeping an eye on.
From the readme.txt:
Dear Esther is a Half Life 2 mod built as part of a research project by thechineseroom, a development team based at the University of Portsmouth, UK.
Rather than a traditional FPS game, Dear Esther is an interactive story, told using FPS technologies.
Using a stripped down version of the normal keys used for play, explore the island and unlock the story.
The story is randomised, so each visit will trigger a different selection of story fragments and reveal more details of the plot.
For more information about the project and other mods to be released, please visit: www.thechineseroom.co.uk
It was a genuinely beautiful experience.
There’s a professional version coming out that was previewed in the latest copy of PC Gamer. A must-buy for me.
I played Washington’s War with John on Friday night. I played the original, We the People, a few years ago. Just about the only thing I remember about We the People was that it was a great game let down by a tediously slow battle card system. Washington’s War fixes that simply with a modified die roll. Both games have top-notch components, so this seems the perfect reprint.
We the People started the Card Driven Wargame genre and as a genre-creator it has genuine quality. If only it had been imitated by more games that were as fast-playing and easy to understand. Twilight Struggle fits that bill and the BGG ratings speak for themselves. I would like even simpler, shorter wargames to come out of this mould, but I doubt I’ll see them. If you like Twilight Struggle or Hannibal: Rome vs Carthage you will almost certainly like Washington’s War.
Yesterday we played four-player Highland Clans (aka Mac Robber). This game has not had a lot of attention and deservedly so. It is a small-scale cube-fest. Although designed for 45 minutes, we played for much longer. Mostly this was because we struggled with the rules, which were clearly translated by a non-native English speaker and never blind-tested with English-speaking players. A big publisher like Queen should know better.
The gameplay itself has a nice confrontational element as every turn you have a free chance to raid an opponent. Ironically these constant attacks make the game feel quite friendly as they do not have much negative effect and they are a good catch-the-leader mechanic that can backfire. The rest is quite abstract and unintuitive. Scottish clan warfare deserves a game with the flavour of Pirates Cove. At least it is lighter and faster than most current eurogame cube-fests.
Our friends enjoyed it as they bought it as a birthday present and enjoyed the Scottish theme. I am a bit more fussy and just can’t recommend a game with such poorly translated rules.
Late last night three of us sat down to Sternenhimmel (Starry Sky), a German 30-45 minute area-majority game from 1995. I bought this cheaply second hand and it was a good purchase – despite the unnecessarily large box. The rules took five minutes to skim through and we all picked it up very quickly. I normally hate open scoring as it slows games down, but in games this short it is bearable. Unfortunately my two friends over-analyse terribly, so it took 90 minutes. I may buy some new batteries for my G8 Game Timer. Recommended if you like games like China.
Please forgive the horrible photo, but there are no free photos at the BoardGameGeek. Not sure if it is just because my phone’s camera lens is scratched or if there is something wrong with the software or hardware internals.
My netbook refuses to run almost all modern games, largely because of its 1024×576 screen resolution. Most games from the mid-90s onwards tend to demand 800×600. Old roguelike games run on it fine, as they come from the distant past, so I have been playing Dungeon Crawl on the recommendation of Troy Goodfellow.
I have never played a roguelike before so there has been a bit of an adjustment. Dungeon Crawl is basically a fast RPG with minimal graphics and zero plot but played with a high-score mentality. I have played it many times over the last few days and have never come close to finishing it or even hitting the mid-game. Apparently most are this tough. Nethack, the most famous roguelike, is even nastier.
Troy’s blog post points out that there is not too much strategic though required but that Dungeon Crawl requires you stay engaged or you will come a cropper. In this way at least it’s similar to computer solitaire or Minesweeper.
I can’t say I am now hooked on roguelikes, but I now know what people are talking about and I have a decent game to pass time with on my netbook.
Please let me know of any decent Ubuntu-compatible, offline-play and netbook resolution friendly games I can try. It’s a narrow list.